President Matt Harrison’s Accomplishments

Leadership for the Synod at Home and Abroad

Download a PDF of a shorter, 2-page shareable list of accomplishments and what work needs to be done.


  • Dealt with the question of “online Communion” and led the Council of Presidents (COP) to reject this practice unanimously.
  • Used the Prior Approval process to ensure the appointment of the most theologically capable leaders of universities and seminaries in recent memory.
  • Addressed the Licensed Lay Deacon problem.
  • Developed the Synod’s first comprehensive evangelism training in decades.
  • Created a new church-planting initiative.
  • Engaged in conversations with the largest Lutheran church bodies in the world, fostering a global revival of confessional Lutheranism.
  • Oversaw the Synod’s facilitation of an unprecedented and historically strong financial position.
  • Supported some 100 full-time missionaries and their families and witnessed the highest congregational support of missionaries in Synod history.

International Mission

  • Retains approximately 100 full-time career missionaries, despite the challenges of some returning from the field as well as recruitment restrictions during COVID-19. When missionary family members are included, the LCMS has some 300 individuals in the global field. Plans are in place to bring the number of career missionaries up to 150.
  • Rejoices in a record number of congregations—1,700 and counting—supporting  these international missionaries. Missionary support is higher today than the Synod has witnessed in more than a decade.
  • Established and implemented a confessional and orthodox approach to world mission. Harrison’s maxim, “Lutheran missions must lead to Lutheran churches” continues to drive the Synod’s approach to missions. The LCMS trains pastors and deaconesses and plants churches.
  • Put in place confessional, experienced and competent regional directors to run international mission efforts, including Ted Krey, Jim Krikava (and his soon-to-be successor Cory Rajek), Chuck Ferry and Shauen Trump.
  • Launched the Global Seminary Initiative (GSI) in partnership with both LCMS seminaries. The GSI has provided $2 million to send professors overseas to deliver theological education, as requested by international partners, and to bring dozens of future leaders to Concordia Seminary, St. Louis (CSL) and Concordia Theological Seminary—Fort Wayne (CTSFW) for study. The seminaries are on solid financial footing thanks to their own hard work, the support of thousands at the congregational level and the support of the LCMS national office.
  • Wrote “Theological Statement of Mission for the 21st Century” to provide theological guidance and direction for mission activity. Endorsed by the Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) and adopted by the LCMS in convention 917 to 37. [
  • Remains attentive to world mission efforts through the Office of International Mission (OIM), especially to the needs of the Synod’s many church partners and their local and cultural sensitivities. Examples:
    • Assists the LCMS’s German partner church (SELK) in its evangelization of Muslims in Berlin, Leipzig and elsewhere.
    • Sends mission videos in Farsi to Pakistan and Iran.
    • Sent a seminary professor to the Philippines for the first time in 20 years.
    • Developed training program for hundreds of deaconesses in Latin America and elsewhere, providing a faithful alternative for service of women in the church.
  • Became the go-to church body for the international, confessional Lutheran training of pastors and professors.
    • Supporting Concordia the Reformer Seminary, Dominican Republic, as a hub for training pastors and deaconesses for the whole Latin America and Caribbean region. This seminary is churning out solidly confessional Lutheran pastors equipped to plant churches in their home countries. For the first time in decades, the LCMS has set itself to preparing pastors for Central and South America. This is having a tremendous effect on Spanish-speaking missions.
    • Encouraging 15 seminaries in Africa, both training those studying to become pastors and deepening the knowledge of the Lutheran Confessions for existing pastors.
    • Launching a new seminary in Taiwan, which will be the only confessional Lutheran, Mandarin-speaking seminary in the world. Classes have started, and plans are in place to send professors over from CSL and CTSFW for periods of instruction.
    • Responding to the needs of the largest Lutheran church bodies in the world, including, for instance, the Lutheran Church of Madagascar (FLM) and its 4.5 million members who are asking for LCMS theologians to teach their pastors the Lutheran Confessions. They desire to sharpen their proclamation of the Gospel and strengthen their confessional subscription in the face of false decision theology and prosperity “gospel.”

National Mission

  • Engaged a fact-based analysis of LCMS demographic decline with the work of world-class demographer George Hawley (University of Alabama) and others. These studies have been helpful in dispelling myths and in taking an honest look at the demographic trends at work today, generating faithful, mission-oriented responses in the LCMS’s approach to national mission.
  • Renewed focus on outreach, revitalization and church planting.
    • New church-planting initiative: Developed with significant financial backing from a new-to-the-Synod foundation. With a planned 2023 rollout, this initiative will include church-planting seminars, pilot projects and resources to plant as many congregations as possible over the next several years.
    • Every One His Witness: Synod’s first comprehensive evangelism training program in 35 years. Eleven modules are currently available with more in production. A Spanish core module and high school versions are available at no cost.
    • re:Vitality: Assists congregations in improving their outreach to new members, follow-up to inactive members and basic strategic planning.
  • Expanded conferences, webinars and ongoing support of Rural & Small Town Mission. This work supports pastors, professional church workers and lay leaders by equipping them to meet the unique challenges of leading Christ-centered outreach in rural and small-town communities.
  • Completed a major study called “Retention of Lutheran Millennials: 2017 LCMS Study of Young Adults,” which surveyed 2,000 millennials, all current and former LCMS members. The     results are compiled into the book Relationships Count: Engaging & Retaining Millennials, available as a free eBook.
  • Granted Recognized Service Organization status to Higher Things.
  • Made gradual improvements to the LCMS Youth Gathering, particularly the Divine Service and speaker list.
  • Created and expanded LCMS U, renewing its emphasis on retaining LCMS youth through their college years.
  • Provided the Blue Ribbon Task Force study on LCMS schools to the 2019 convention.


  • Assisting Ukrainian refugees at several locations in Europe, including Wittenberg. Helping the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Ukraine in the face of severe need due to the Russian war.
  • Offering $1 million in matching grants to LCMS congregations for pro-life mercy projects.
  • Deployed Lutheran Early Response Teams (LERT) and provided training for thousands of LCMS members. A new online database and portal allows volunteers to sign up for disaster trainings and deployments.
  • Published a comprehensive chainsaw manual for LERT volunteers and teams, the only denominational chainsaw manual in the world, which went through both legal review and doctrinal review.
  • Responded to major disasters around the world and the U.S. through LCMS World Relief and Human Care, including Hurricane Ian (2022) and the Haiti earthquake (2021). In Haiti, the LCMS provided 360,000 meals through Lutheran church partners. In partnership with the Florida/Georgia district, the Synod has provided $2 million worth of volunteer labor (tree removal and muck outs) and almost $1 million in grants and assistance so far.
  • Continued annual support and attendance at the National March for Life and LCMS Life Ministry conferences. The LCMS is regularly a top sponsor of the National March for Life as well as state-level marches.
  • Continued regular sending of Mercy Medical Teams to Africa and elsewhere.
  • Offered ongoing support of Veterans of the Cross and Soldiers of the Cross for church workers in crisis. During COVID, the LCMS provided Soldiers of the Cross amplified grants to professional church workers and employees of congregations whose salaries were affected by the pandemic.
  • Provided DOXOLOGY “Take Heart” respite retreats for pastors and commissioned ministers during the pandemic and afterward.
  • Completed rebuilding of the India Evangelical Lutheran Church seminary after it was struck by a typhoon. Along with steady influence and communication, this support is causing a new outpouring of unity in that often-divided church body.

Life Together

  • Established two mission boards—Board for National Mission (BNM) and the Board for International Mission (BIM)—due to the 2010 convention-mandated restructuring. President Harrison is urging more authority for these boards, including budget approval. These boards set the policies and parameters by which the Office of National Mission (ONM) and the Office of International Mission (OIM) operate and carry out the seven mission priorities set by the Synod in convention (see below).
  • Created seven mission priorities as a result of the 2016 convention. They guide and prioritize the work of the ONM and the OIM:
    • Plant, sustain, and revitalize distinctly Lutheran churches
    • Support and expand theological education
    • Perform human care in close proximity to Word and Sacrament ministry
    • Collaborate with the Synod’s members and partners to enhance mission effectiveness
    • Nurture pastors, missionaries, and professional church workers to promote spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being
    • Enhance early childhood, elementary and secondary education, and youth ministry
    • Strengthen and support the Lutheran family in living out God’s design
  • Hired new, faithfully Lutheran, experienced staff in numerous leadership positions throughout Synod, Inc.
  • Brought together differing parties in districts, circuits and the COP through the Koinonia Project. This has expanded theological dialogue and an increased understanding and agreement under the Word of God and has been widely and well received.
  • Established and implemented regular district visitations made by the president, first vice-president and a regional vice-president once every triennium “to build each other up and encourage each other in the mission of Christ.” Visitation teams are now on their third round of making visits (more than 100 made thus far). The materials used at a visitation are available here. These visitations have gone a long way to nurture mutual understanding and trust.
  • Addressed the Licensed Lay Deacon (LLD) problem of men serving as pastors without the benefit of call and ordination.
  • Carrying out a colloquy process to the Specific Ministry Pastor (SMP) roster for those LLDs regularly preaching and presiding. Prior to the passing of Resolution 13-02A in 2016, 331 LLDs were serving in a pastoral capacity. Since then, 104 have been ordained, and only 11 are still serving as LLDs. Those exceptions are fewer every year.
  • Developed and implemented successful celebrations of the 500th Reformation anniversary (2017) and the 175th anniversary of the Synod (2022).
  • Established the Journal of Lutheran Mission for the promulgation of orthodox missional theology.
  • Partnered with MinistrySafe to create a child protection resource for all LCMS congregations and districts. Available early 2023.
  • Produced, along with the CTCR, a new and much improved Luther’s Catechism with Explanation, covering a number of contemporary issues such as sexuality (CPH 2017).
  • Producing documents, through the CTCR, on human sexuality and the order of creation.
  • Facilitated discussion and theological oversight regarding “online Communion.” During COVID, President Harrison requested documents treating the issue from the two seminaries and from the CTCR. Those documents were provided and set before the church. The COP unanimously rejected the practice.
  • Requested, on behalf of President Harrison, that the Commission on Constitutional Matters (CCM) give an opinion on whether the unbiblical practice of the ordination of women was consistent with the doctrinal article of the LCMS Constitution (Article II). The response was “no.” 
  • Held several “Making Disciples for Life” conferences through the ONM, amassing a large library of videos on all manner of contemporary topics, including “wokeism.”
  • Asked the CTCR, on behalf of President Harrison, to provide guidance for lay readers leading services (not administering the Sacrament) and reading prepared sermons in extreme cases where a pastor cannot be had.

Church Relations

  • Answering requests for theological leadership. As the Lutheran World Federation’s (LWF) abandonment of biblical sexual ethics continues to take effect around the world, many Lutheran churches are looking to the LCMS for theological leadership. This is a critical moment for global confessional Lutheranism.
  • Launched a successful effort to move the International Lutheran Council (ILC) to an independent entity with growing global capacity, particularly in the area of seminary accreditation, which is needed by many global partners. The LCMS is the largest supporter of the ILC, which has 56 Lutheran church bodies.
  • Completed an evaluation of the LWF by the CTCR at President Harrison’s request in response to the 2019 Resolution 5-07, which asked the Office of the President to engage in fraternal dialogue with partner churches that continue to maintain membership in the LWF.
  • Continued interaction with the Ethiopian Church (9 million members).
  • Increased contact with the East Lake Diocese of the Tanzanian Lutheran Church (6 million members).
  • Entered church fellowship talks with the Lutheran Church of Madagascar (FLM; 4.5 million members).
  • Enjoyed relationships with 97 church bodies worldwide, representing some 40 million Christians.
  • Dialogued, through the work of the ILC, with the Roman Catholic Church through the Pontifical Council on Christian Unity. The ILC is now seen by the Vatican as the confessional Lutheran voice distinguished from the liberal LWF.
  • Received a request from the Lutheran Church of Bolivia (ICEL) to begin dialogue with the LCMS, aiming at eventual recognition of altar and pulpit fellowship. ICEL has already instituted a quia subscription oath for its pastors and adjusted their constitution and bylaws accordingly. 
  • Received approval to teach at FLM seminaries. Following a May 2022 visit of a delegation from the FLM to the International Center, the FLM approved an unprecedented measure to authorize the use of LCMS professors to teach the Lutheran Confessions and liturgics in their six regional seminaries and one graduate school of theology. The LCMS will be the only non-FLM church body to provide seminary-based professors in their seminaries.
  • Engaged in dialogue with the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) to find areas where the churches can cooperate in externals, particularly in the area of religious freedom.
  • Dialogued with the North American Lutheran Church (NALC) to find areas where the churches can cooperate in externals, particularly in the area of religious freedom.
  • Conversed informally with the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS). The three church bodies are the closest they have been since the suspension of fellowship more than 60 years ago. President Harrison is the first president of the LCMS to speak at WELS and ELS conventions in more than 60 years.
  • Received the request of 15 church bodies for fellowship with the LCMS. Some of these will come before the 2023 convention.
  • Expressed gratitude for 40 church partners in altar and pulpit fellowship, rejoiced in 40 church bodies who are friends with whom the LCMS cooperates in theological education and developed relationships with 17 other church bodies around the world.

Seminaries and Pastoral Education

  • Launched the Set Apart to Serve church worker recruitment initiative to grow the number of students at LCMS seminaries and teacher education students at Concordia universities.
  • Expanded and renewed Post-Seminary Applied Learning and Support (PALS) for new pastors and their wives.
  • Raised nearly $3 million a year through the Joint Seminary Fund, the results of which are divided between the two seminaries.
  • Amended, by way of the 2016 convention, Bylaw 3.10.4 to create a “Pastoral Formation Committee” to provide for greater coordination and collaboration between the two seminaries. This committee is addressing the push for alternate paths to ordination or colloquy.
  • Developed the Preach the Word Initiative to assist pastors in improving their preaching skills.

Concordia University System (CUS)

  • Fostered, through the Synod president and Prior Approval panel, the appointment of five new, confessional Lutheran presidents at Concordia universities. The university presidents, as a whole, are the theologically strongest in many decades.
  • Utilized ecclesiastical visitation to Concordia University Wisconsin & Ann Arbor (CUWAA) to correct the Board of Regent’s errant refusal to appoint a president from the prior approval list as determined by the LCMS Constitution and Bylaws. A reversal of mission drift now begins under newly-elected President Erik Ankerberg.
  • Exposed and confirmed serious doctrinal concerns (particularly issues on sexuality) as well a long-standing desire and push for independence from Synod oversight at Concordia University Texas (CTX). This occurred through ecclesiastical visitation to CTX. The Synod’s president and Board of Directors, with Chairman Rev. Dr. Michael Kumm, are calling for a reversal of CTX’s Board of Regents decision illegally to separate from LCMS governance.
  • Maintained solid leadership of the CUS, including the Rev. Dr. Dean Wenthe (former president of Concordia Theological Seminary—Fort Wayne), who is bringing the universities together to move forward and work together in a united front against the challenges of the day, and the Rev. Dr. Paul Philp as CUS assistant to Wenthe.
  • Addressing the 2019 convention call for a stronger governance model for the Concordias and a strengthened Lutheran identity and observable mission there. These issues will be before the 2023 convention.


  • Stewarding contributions from faithful and engaged donors. This, along with careful consideration of ongoing mission and ministry operations, has placed the Synod in an immensely strong and viable financial position.
  • Paid off the remaining historic CUS debt in 2019, a monumental achievement. The debt peaked in 1992 at $78 million and was near $40 million (CUS debt and internal borrowing) in 2010.
  • Published a first-ever “annual report” in the November 2017The Lutheran Witness, as a response to 2016 Resolution 9-04A. Subsequent annual reports are published in The Lutheran Witness and/or online.
  • Increased financial transparency by reporting in a more simplified and timely manner. Regular reports available online.
  • Reduced costs of fundraising to as low as 8.5 cents/dollar, an astoundingly low number.
  • Saw program expenditures at 78 percent, a likewise phenomenal number for the non-profit world, per the Synod’s last financial report.

Presidential Approval of Theologically Sound Leadership since 2010

  • Rev. Peter Lange, first vice-president, LCMS
  • Dr. Erik Ankerberg, president, CUWAA
  • Dr. Bernard Bull, president, CUNE
  • Rev. Dr. Tom Egger, president, CSL
  • Dr. Russell Dawn, president, CUC
  • Dr. Michael Thomas, president, CUI
  • Rev. Dr. Brian Friedrich, president, CSP
  • Rev. Bart Day, president and CEO, LCEF
  • Rev. Dr. Larry Rast, president, CTS
  • Rev. Dr. Dean Wenthe, president, CUS
  • Rev. Dr. Paul Philp, director of Institutional Research and Integrity, CUS
  • Rev. Dr. Daniel Harmelink, executive director, CHI
  • Frank Simek, Chief Administrative Officer, LCMS
  • Rev. Kevin Robson, Chief Mission Officer, LCMS
  • Jonathan Schultz, CEO, Concordia Publishing House
  • Numerous faithful individuals working at the Synod headquarters and deployed as international missionaries. The International Center is in an entirely different place than it was in 2010.

Council of Presidents (COP) and Ecclesiastical Supervision

  • Regularly contacting pastors on candidate status and reviewing those at least once a year.
  • Engaging with the Koinonia Project as a body.
  • Receiving theological teaching from President Harrison at every COP meeting.
  • Working fraternally through President Harrison with district presidents to build and maintain doctrinal unity, especially regarding LCMS expectations on worship and Communion practice. A recent incident (2022) where a Methodist clergywomen participated in a pastoral installation was handled and brought to a quick conclusion with apologies and forgiveness. A situation where a deaconess preached in a congregation was handled likewise. Many other less well-known situations have been handled and brought to sound, pastoral resolution.
  • Brought to resolution and conclusion the case of an LCMS rostered teacher who denied the inerrancy of Scripture and the biblical principles of altar and pulpit fellowship and was also pro-evolution and pro-women’s ordination.
  • Restored through the Commission on Constitutional Matters (CCM) the right of an accuser to appeal to the Synod president regarding ecclesiastical supervision. The provision has only been used once since it was implemented in 2016.
  • Peaceful assemblies of the COP and its new leadership with the election of Missouri District President Rev. Dr. Lee Hagan.

Public Square

  • Spoke to religious freedom and Health and Human Services mandates, thanks to the strong testimony of President Harrison before Congress in 2012.
  • Launched the Free to be Faithful campaign to educate and move people to take informed action to protect religious freedom and address all the cultural issues that pertain to it: confessing the faith in the public square, marriage, defending the sanctity of human life, and religious liberties.
  • Conducted successful capital campaign and launched Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty (LCRL) in Washington, D.C., staffed by the Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz. President Harrison chairs the LCRL Board of Directors.
  • Maintained a strong presence at pro-life events. President Harrison remains a regular speaker at the Chicago Life March and at the March for Life Rose Dinner in Washington, D.C.


  • Works across multiple platforms faithfully and consistently to communicate what the Synod believes, teaches and confesses. The team strives to bear witness to Christ and share His mercy in the LCMS’s life together.
  • Increased the number of social media followers over the past 6 years to 156,000 followers on Facebook; 22,000 on Twitter; and 18,000 on Instagram. The LCMS maintains the largest Lutheran church body Facebook page.
  • Launched a new periodical, Lutherans Engage the World, to inform all donors and rostered workers about the Synod’s work of sharing the Gospel in word and deed across the nation and around the world. This has resulted in a growing donor base and increase in unrestricted gifts.
  • Refocused the Synod’s official and storied periodical, The Lutheran Witness, on teaching the faith by exploring contemporary topics in light of the LCMS’s confession utilizing timely and critical themes, engaging writers and outstanding layout and design.
  • Reshaped Reporter as the Synod’s only news periodical to cover LCMS national and international activities.
  • Added a highly acclaimed, award-winning professional photojournalist and videographer to the team, allowing the communications team to show the work of the church through compelling visual imagery that conveys what Lutherans confess and documents how that confession is lived out in the work they do.
  • Restructured and reorganized Synod’s radio station, KFUO AM, and Internet podcast site to offer confessional Lutheran talk radio and music programming 24/7. “KFUO Radio: Christ for you. Anytime. Anywhere.” Also brought Issues, Etc. back to KFUO AM as its flagship program.
  • Published books and articles written and translated by President Harrison as well as his timely statements on challenging issues. He has also appeared on Issues, Etc. many times speaking about theological and pastoral issues.


  • Acknowledged calm, theologically competent and fiscally sound leadership through the Synod’s Board of Directors under the capable chairmanship of the Rev. Dr. Michael Kumm. This has occurred through a variety of challenging issues, and President Harrison remains supportive of the BOD, especially in delivering balanced budgets.
  • Produced strategic plan documents, thanks to the BOD, for all areas of ministry of the national office.
  • Encouraged publication of 2017 Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation. 171,000 copies were sold, helping LCMS pastors and people to respond faithfully to today’s challenges.
  • Conducted a successful capital campaign and the restoration of the Old Latin School in Wittenberg, Germany, in time for 2017 Reformation anniversary. Self-supporting, it now provides a confessional Lutheran embassy and study center in the heart of Europe and is a residence for Ukrainian refugees as well as a space for confirmation retreats, mission seminars and meetings, local outreach and seminary training events.
  • Increased engagement with three international LCMS schools (Hong Kong, Shanghai and Hanoi) for stronger Gospel content and mission.
  • Encouraged the successful launch of Lutheran Federal Credit Union.
  • Produced by Concordia Publishing House and with President Harrison’s support a plethora of faithful and theologically rich resources including The Lutheran Study Bible in Spanish and a new translation of Walther’s Church and Office (revised and annotated by Harrison). Other volumes include Women Pastors?; Closed Communion?; One Lord, Two Hands? (on the theology of the two kingdoms) and Why Am I Joyfully Lutheran?.
  • Appointment and management by President Harrison of some 300 theologically sound doctrinal reviewers. These unsung readers have maintained the theological integrity of thousands of publications throughout the Synod and its various entities.
  • The Synod is calm, especially relative to the years preceding 2010. President Harrison works tirelessly to keep the Synod out of a negative spotlight. Potentially destructive incidents have been followed with apologies, forgiveness and quick resolution of the matters.
  • All the normal Synod functions have continued and been carried out without significant incident. This may seem obvious, but is something for which to give thanks.
  • COP and the Synod’s policies deal effectively with sexual misconduct, via a zero-tolerance policy that has been very effective.
  • President Harrison’s administration creates an environment in the Synod that is friendly to faithful Lutherans and allows them space and freedom to carry out their activities.